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News March 26, 2020

As Australia’s live biz faces tough times, government won’t refund unused 408 visas: Exclusive

Senior Journalist, B2B
As Australia’s live biz faces tough times, government won’t refund unused 408 visas: Exclusive

Already reeling from the global shutdown of the live music economy, Australia’s concert promoters are absorbing another financial hit, this one created by the federal government.

TIO understands the Immigration Department isn’t providing refunds on Temporary Activity (subclass 408) Visas already processed, despite the federal government’s recent ban on “non-essential” public gatherings, spelling an end to gig culture as we know it.

The 408 visas are a costly but essential part of the process for all international performers visiting our shores. Required by law, the visa carries a price of $314.09, though after adding fees for filing the application, the sum typically spikes to about $650 per visa.

The costs add up, promoters say. And right now, the government won’t return the cash for those pre-paid visas for events which have now been scrapped amidst the global health crisis.

Veteran concert promoter and IMC chief Joe Segreto tells TIO he was “stunned” to receive notice from the Department of Immigration, stating that refunds would not be issued.

Segreto and others have received a standard message from the department, which reads: “There are strict criteria relating to the refund of a visa application charge and unfortunately it does not accommodate unforeseen circumstances such as the cancellation of events.” The message signs off, “In this instance we are unable to assist with your request.”

labor arts policy live show

Several members of Live Performance Australia have raised this issue with the trade body. “As part of our advocacy efforts,” explains Kim Tran, LPA’s Director, Policy & Governance, “we are seeking to get refunds for these unused visas.”

Live Nation and the organisers of Bluesfest are among the companies disputing the matter, sources tell TIO.

With cashflow a huge concern for an industry which relies on footfall at shows, the visa situation comes at the very worst time.

“One would think that coronavirus would meet a special criteria for visa refunds,” says an executive with knowledge of the situation. “But as this pandemic has never happened before the decision/direction would need to come from higher up.”

A least one promoter has reached out to Federal Minister of the Arts Paul Fletcher for support on the issue.

Paul Fletcher

Paul Fletcher

The department’s stance on 408 visa refunds is “both ridiculous and outrageous” considering the circumstances are the direct result of government laws, notes Segreto. “If it were any other business, they would be subject to ACCC investigation.”

LPA already has a massive fight on its hands. Led by its CEO Evelyn Richardson, the peak body is liaising with government to try secure a $650 million emergency industry support package to keep artists, professionals and businesses afloat during the crisis. It’s do-or-die time. “The clock is ticking,” Richardson said recently.

Following a ban on indoor gatherings numbering more than 100 people and restrictions on public, outdoor gatherings of 500 or more, Australia’s $4 billion live entertainment community is the facing the harshest of years.

According to I Lost My Gig, is an initiative of the Australian Festivals Association and the Australian Music Industry Network, lost income from events cancelled due to bushfires and the coronavirus across Australia and New Zealand has surged past $300 million.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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